There are family heirlooms, and then there are royal jewels. Europe’s many monarchies are often known for passing down or repurposing their exquisite bijoux, but even crowns and scepters can’t compare to the sentimental value of an engagement ring. Many stand the test of time, spawning copycats and inspiring jewelry trends for years to come.
Below, WWD looks back at 100 years of royal engagement rings.
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother
- Date: 1923
- Details: Before she became Queen Consort and subsequently, the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was proposed to with a 12 carat Kashmir sapphire flanked by two diamonds. Few photos of the gem exist, though, because the Queen Mother eventually swapped out her original engagement ring for a large pearl surrounded by diamonds.
- Date: 1936
- Designer: Jacques Cartier
- Details: Edward VIII may have abdicated the throne before he married American socialite Wallis Simpson, but he was still King of England when he proposed to her with a 19 carat emerald ring by Cartier. It features an engraving reading “We are ours now 27 x 36,” a reference to the date of their engagement, October 27, 1936. Following her death, Simpson’s ring sold at Sotheby’s for $1.9 million.
Queen Elizabeth II
- Date: 1947
- Designer: Philip Antrobus
- Details: Queen Elizabeth II’s engagement ring features a three carat round cut diamond accented by smaller pave stones, all of which came from a tiara belonging to Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg. Set in platinum, the ring is estimated to be worth around $250,000 today.
Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco
- Date: 1956
- Designer: Cartier
- Details: Actress Grace Kelly made headlines following her engagement to Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Her stunning 10 karat emerald cut ring, worth $44.3 million when adjusted for inflation, is known as one of the most expensive engagement rings of all time.
- Date: 1960
- Designer: S.J. Philips
- Details: Photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones popped the question with a ring featuring three oval cut rubies (approximately five to six carats) and small round diamond stones. Their placement, modeled after a rosebud, is a reference to Princess Margaret’s middle name. Although the ring cost a mere $300 at the time, it’s now worth thousands more after it sold at Christie’s for nearly $370,000 in 2006.
Queen Margrethe of Denmark
- Date: 1966
- Designer: Van Cleef & Arpels
- Details: Upon his engagement to then-Princess Margrethe, Prince Henrik gifted her a Toi et Moi ring adorned with two large diamond stones, totaling approximately six carats each, set in yellow gold. Although Prince Henrik passed away in 2018, the Danish queen still wears her engagement ring. While the exact price is unknown, it’s speculated to be worth somewhere between $750,000 and $1 million.
- Date: 1981
- Designer: Garrard
- Details: Princess Diana was given several options to choose from following her engagement to Prince Charles. She selected a twelve carat oval cut Ceylon sapphire encircled by 14 diamonds, all set in white 18 carat white gold. At the time, it cost around $36,000, but its value is currently estimated at nearly $500,000.
Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh
- Date: 1998
- Designer: Garrard
- Details: Queen Elizabeth II’s son, Prince Edward, proposed to Sophie Rhys-Jones with a white gold ring featuring three diamonds. The round cut center stone is flanked by two heart-shaped gems. The Duchess of Edinburgh’s ring is worth an estimated $150,000.
Mette-Marit, Crown Princess of Norway
- Date: 2000
- Details: When Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway proposed to Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby, he presented her with a family heirloom previously worn by three generations of Swedish royals. Her yellow gold engagement ring is adorned with diamonds and rubies.
Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark
- Date: 2003
- Details: Upon his engagement to Australian native Mary Donaldson, Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark presented her with a ring featuring a 1.5 carat emerald cut diamond flanked by two emerald cut rubies, the colors of which represent the Danish flag. The price of Princess Mary’s ring is estimated at $50,000 to $60,000.
- Date: 2003
- Designer: Suárez
- Details: Journalist Ortiz received a white gold eternity band embellished with 16 diamond baguette stones following her engagement to then Prince Felipe of Spain. The ring is reportedly valued at $40,000.
- Date: 2005
- Details: King Charles III gifted Queen Camilla with a ring belonging to his great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, when they got engaged. The art deco design includes a five carat emerald cut diamond lined with three diamond baguettes on either side. Queen Camilla’s engagement ring is purportedly worth upwards of $250,000.
Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden
- Date: 2009
- Details: When Princess Victoria got engaged to her boyfriend and former personal trainer, Daniel Westling, he broke Swedish tradition by proposing with a white gold ring adorned with a round cut diamond. Historically, Swedish royals wore simple gold bands as engagement rings. The Princess’ brilliant sparkler is likely valued between $90,000 to $120,000.
Princess Charlene of Monaco
- Date: 2010
- Designer: Repossi
- Details: Grace Kelly’s son, Prince Albert II, marked his engagement to Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittsock by gifting her a three carat pear-shaped diamond surrounded by smaller stones. It’s estimated that Princess Charlene’s ring is worth more than $65,000.
Catherine, Princess of Wales
- Date: 2010
- Designer: Garrard
- Details: Prince William passed down his mother’s iconic Garrard engagement ring to his then fiancée, Kate Middleton. Today, the current Princess of Wales’ sapphire bijou is still considered one of the most popular engagement rings, raking in an average of 4,200 searches monthly according to a study conducted by Journo Research.
Princess Madeleine of Sweden
- Date: 2012
- Details: When Princess Madeleine got engaged to British businessman Christopher O’Neill, he proposed with a four carat Asscher cut diamond featuring a pave setting. The royal’s ring is reportedly worth more than $180,000.
Princess Sofia of Sweden
- Date: 2014
- Designer: W.A. Bolin
- Details: Prince Carl Philip popped the question to former model Sofia Hellqvist with a round cut diamond surrounded by a halo of pave stones. Set upon a split shank band, the Princess’ engagement ring is rumored to have cost more than $12,000.
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex
- Date: 2017
- Designer: Cleave & Company
- Details: Upon their engagement, Prince Harry surprised Meghan Markle with diamonds from his mother’s personal collection. The Duchess of Sussex’s engagement ring features a three carat cushion cut center stone sourced from Botswana flanked by two smaller diamonds from a brooch that previously belonged to Princess Diana. Originally set in gold, Markle’s sparkler got an upgrade in 2019 when the Duchess had it replaced with a pave band, upping the ring’s value to around $200,000.
- Date: 2018
- Details: Financier Jack Brooksbank asked for Princess Beatrice’s hand in marriage with an engagement ring resembling her mother’s. Eugenie’s bauble features a rare oval cut padparadscha sapphire encircled by ten small diamonds. Given the rarity of its center stone, the Princess’ engagement ring could be worth as much as $250,000.